Abbas’ mother died following a massive cardiac arrest at his official quarters at an Army base in Pathankot.
Srinagar: Muhammad Abbas, an Army jawan from a remote village of Karnah tehsil in Kashmir’s frontier district of Kupwara, on Thursday morning began a sad and arduous journey of his life.
Carrying the body of his 60-year-old mother Sakeena Begum on his shoulders, Abbas began trekking through the waist-deep snow from Chowkibal to his native village close to the Line of Control (LoC) where he plans to give her a decent burial. Accompanying by a few relatives, he was expecting to reach the destination by late evening “if, God forbid, nothing untoward happens en route.” The entire 52-km Chowkibal-Karnah road which passes through elevations of about 3,200 metre is avalanche-prone and an official warning against venturing out in the area stands valid for next 24 hours.
Ignoring the threat, Abbas (25), after consulting his relatives, decided to embark on the dangerous journey as the authorities allegedly failed to arrange a helicopter sortie to enable them to reach their native village with his mother’s body.
Abbas’ mother died following a massive cardiac arrest at his official quarters at an Army base in Pathankot in neighbouring Punjab last week. After returning to Kashmir, he kept her body in an Army barrack in Kupwara for four nights, hoping he would be able to carry it home either by road after snow is cleared from it or the authorities will arrange a helicopter for them. Neither was done. On each morning during this period, he and his relatives tried to carry the coffin through five to six feet deep snow but had to give it up after walking some distance.
“Only about 25 km of the road from Chowkibal to Sadhna top and downhill had to be cleared of snow,” he said. The officials said that because of the persisting hostile weather conditions they could not do it and that, for the same reason, safe navigation of the helicopter was not possible.
Parts of Kupwara and neighbouring Bandipore and Baramulla districts and Ganderbal district in north of Srinagar witnessed a series of snow avalanches and cave-ins since January 25 following heavy snowfalls, resulting into the death of as many as 20 Army officers and jawans and eight civilians. Also, road communications, rail and air services were disrupted across the Valley.
But critics asked that when the authorities could make roads linking the Valley’s resorts like Gulmarg and Pahalgam with summer capital Srinagar passable within hours of these getting blocked in the aftermath of snowfall why are people living in remote areas left to suffer at the mercy of bad weather. “To keep Gulmarg open for a few thousand tourists, the authorities take three to five hours to clear the 14 km up-stretch from Tangmarg but somehow where thousands of border residents live, the people at helm just don’t seem to care,” wrote Mufti Islah, a Kashmiri journalist on his Facebook timeline. He added that the people of Karnah have been pleading for construction of a tunnel to evade treacherous Sadhna pass for the last three decades “but what can be done—a helpless and hopeless situation to be in for Karnah residents”.
Abbas said that he was promised that a helicopter would be arranged by the Kupwara administration to take him home to his village in Karnah tehsil of the district. “But they kept us waiting and we are now left with no option but to walk,” he told reporters before leaving for home. The district officials said that they had arranged for a helicopter sortie on Thursday but Abbas and others decided not to avail it as they were not sure if weather conditions will be good enough for it. They added that men and machinery were already on the job to clear the road beyond Chowkibal to ensure a “smooth journey” for them.